And what do you do?

30 May 2008

Not all PCS members spend their working day at a desk or behind a computer - some do rather unexpected jobs, as we found out...

When Tony Payne was growing up as a schoolboy in London, he little thought that one day he would be in charge of the largest castle in Wales. But now he is, as head custodian of Caerphilly Castle.

“I love my job and have really high job satisfaction. I never get the Monday morning blues” Tony Payne, head custodian Caerphilly Castle

Originally a French polisher and furniture restorer, Tony was made redundant during the recession in the late ‘80s. “I used to do caving and potholing and loved coming to Wales, so I decided to come here – and have never looked back.”

Moving to Wales in 1990, he found temporary work as a security guard under a job creation scheme. The firm was contracted to Cadw, the Welsh heritage body that is now part of the National Assembly of Wales, and Tony found himself on duty at re-enactment and living history events.
“I toured Cadw sites as a steward with a theatre group and asked if there were any jobs going, and I was offered a seasonal custodian post at Caerphilly Castle.” Tony got a permanent post at Castell Coch, then Chepstow Castle, before finally becoming head custodian at Caerphilly, where he lives, seven years ago.

“My job is to meet and greet visitors – we get 100,000 a year – and line manage the other custodians, as well as responsibility for the gift shop and visitors’ centre. I’m responsible for the monument as a whole.”

PCS represents Tony and his fellow Cadw custodians, who have a yearly conference for training, to exchange information and to meet the PCS reps. “I joined the union when I was made full-time – almost as an insurance policy,” says Tony. “You get the backing of the union if there’s an issue, and then there’s the benefits – I got absolutely brilliant legal advice for a personal issue, which was worth the union fee alone.”

Tony had considered becoming a PCS rep himself, but as a single father raising two school-age children, he already had too much on.

He’s looking forward to a lively summer, with events ranging from a show of medieval siege engines to the town’s Big Cheese festival at the end of July. “I love my job and have really high job satisfaction,” says Tony. “I never get the Monday morning blues.”

Coining it in

“We were the first Mint, set up 1,100 years ago, and we have a wealth of history. It’s a fascinating job and one I thoroughly enjoy” Sarah Matthews, product delivery coordinator, Royal Mint

Also in Wales, but doing a very different job, Sarah Matthews is a product delivery coordinator at the Royal Mint. With a six strong team, Sarah works on the production of collector coins, an important income generating business. “Coins are usually produced at the Royal Mint itself, but we also buy in coins, such as historical issues and bespoke collections.”

Sarah started in customer services in 1997 and then moved over into giftware. Following restructuring, she now works in developing coin products, with 80-100 special collections a year. Her current projects include a coin to mark Prince Charles’ 60th birthday and developing collections to celebrate the history of the RAF. She also worked on a new design for the reverse side of our coins which was launched in April – the first for 40 years. “This was a significant change in the numismatic world,” says Sarah.

As well as the high value silver and gold coin market, Sarah has also worked closely with the world-famous Faberge company on the Queen’s diamond wedding anniversary egg – 21 eggs were sold at £30,000 each – and related pendants and cuff links.

A mother of two children, Sarah has little time to be actively involved in the union, but keeps herself informed through her more active union colleagues. She enjoys the flexibility in her role, where she is involved from product brief to the launch of new collections and coins.

“The Royal Mint is considered to be a world leader for coin manufacture,” explains Sarah.

“We were the first Mint, set up 1,100 years ago, and we have a wealth of history. It’s a fascinating job and one I thoroughly enjoy.”

On the radar

A member of the Royal Air Force for 26 years, John McGlasson is now a civilian specialist radar instructor at the Ministry of Defence College of Communications in Cosford, Shropshire. Having gone into the air force straight from school, John now teaches both air force and civilian personnel to work on a range of equipment. “The students are at various stages of their careers, with a cross-section of ages and experience.” Himself taught by the air force, John became an instructor, achieving a certificate of education from Wolverhampton University on the way.

John became a civil servant four years ago, having previously left the RAF for personal reasons – he was faced with a posting to the Falklands when his daughter was due to have a kidney transplant. Unions are not allowed in the forces, so John did not know much about them, but he joined PCS, “basically for security and to protect myself, and a good friend is the main rep here.”

Now John has good reason for his view that “if we stand together, we’re going to be a lot stronger.” Under the defence training review, the government is trying to privatize all military training under a consortium of defence companies, and relocate it in one base, St Athan in South Wales.

“I want to give a big thanks to PCS. They have been very active in supporting our causes – and trying to stop privatisation” John McGlasson, specialist radar instructor, Ministry of Defence

“The government is determined to push this through,” says John, despite the threats to the future of this sensitive training, not to mention the potential security risks. “Some of the courses here are out of the ordinary, and the MoD is having to hand them back to the RAF.”

PCS, Prospect and the other unions are working extremely hard to prevent the move, says John. “None of us want to go to the private sector, or move out of the area.”

He is worried about the loss of job security, and the increased workload that would come with “working for profit”. He also says that moves to e-learning and distance learning “would reduce the quality of training – the bottom line is that lives could be at risk if people are not qualified to use the equipment.”

John is also reluctant to move because of his many community-based involvements. He is a football coach, working with RAF and local teams, and does a lot of charity work, including support for kidney charities – his daughter’s transplant was rejected and she’s now on dialysis.

He also works with a charity, Glad’s House, which supports street children in Kenya, and is hoping to go to Mombassa in the summer to set up a football development programme there.

“I want to give a big thanks to PCS, especially our local branch. They have been very active in supporting our causes – and trying to stop privatisation.”

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